Christian Benteke’s poor club form with Crystal Palace has put his World Cup place in jeopardy after he was left out of the Belgium squad for this month’s friendly against Saudi Arabia.
The striker, who was scored just twice this season for his relegation-threatened Premier League club, is a notable absentee in a 28-man squad named yesterday by coach Roberto Martinez for the World Cup warm-up in Brussels on March 27.
Martinez did seek to temper the impact in a news conference, telling reporters: “Christian stays in the picture but I want to try new players in the game against Saudi Arabia. We know Christian well, he is just not with us this time.”
There was a first call-up for midfielder Anthony Limbombe from Belgian league leaders Club Bruges and a return for Roma’s Radja Nainggolan, who Martinez has dropped previously provoking an angry public reaction from the player.
Martinez said Belgium had organised three more World Cup warm-up matches, against Portugal (June 2), Egypt (June 6) and Costa Rica (June 11). Their World Cup begins in Sochi against Panama on June 18 and they also face England and Tunisia in their group.